February 26, 2021

As an engineering student, you’ll be doing a lot of schoolwork on your laptop. It is a multipurpose tool which will be used for pretty much everything- research, downloading school documents, submitting assignments, video calls, presentations, etc.

Depending on what you’re studying and the software you use, your laptop has to be decently powerful.

We did the research and came up with 7 of the best laptops for engineering students. Our top recommendation and overall winner is the new Dell XPS 13 model 9310, this is a 2-in-1 which means you can easily transform between tablet and laptop mode on the fly.

It’s the ideal combination of portability and performance with an excellent display and tons of battery life. Everything a student needs. Read on to learn more about the XPS 13 and other laptops on our list.

Here is our list of 7 best laptop for engineering students:

This is one of the newer Dell XPS models, designed to function with the Intel 11th generation Tiger Lake CPUs. It has a specially designed cooling solution that minimizes weight and boosts productivity across most applications while maintaining a low sound profile.

There are two models of this laptop, both of which are currently in limited stock at the time of writing this article (they should get restocked soon).

The one we are recommending is the version with a 4K UHD+ display (16:10 aspect ratio) and 32GB of RAM. It is more expensive, but not by a ton.

The cheaper version has a FHD display which is still miles ahead of most laptop screens we’ve seen. And it has half the storage + RAM at 512GB and 16GB, respectively. If you’re running a lot of simulations or virtual machines, the extra RAM and storage will come in handy.

Both models pack an Intel Tiger Lake i7 processor with 4 cores and 8 threads. These have the new Intel Xe integrated graphics which beats out even AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series in gaming. And they are built with Intel’s super efficient 10nm+ lithographic process.

All of the new XPS models with Intel 11th generation processors are equipped with extremely fast RAM- 4267MHz LPDDR4x. And both models have thin bezel 500-nit touch displays.

Note: If these two models are out of stock, you can also go for the older Dell XPS 9500, this is a 15.6” traditional laptop (not a 2-in-1 like the 9310), but it is equipped with a i7-10750H which should have superior multicore performance compared to the quad core Tiger Lake chips. And, it even has a dedicated GPU- the GTX 1650ti.

Pros

  • Intel Tiger Lake processor with IPC and clock improvements over 10th generation Ice Lake chips
  • Intel Xe integrated graphics
  • 4267MHz LPDDR4x RAM
  • Super-fast PCIe M.2 storage
  • InfinityEdge touchscreen display with 500 nits brightness and true to life colors
  • Carbon fiber palmrest
  • Ultra sleek and lightweight
  • All-day battery life
  • Excellent precision glass trackpad
  • Comfortable typing experience
  • Onboard audio is pretty good
  • Windows Hello facial recognition via IR webcam
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Thunderbolt 4 ports with power delivery
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1
  • Comes with ProSupport Plus for 1 year which gives you 24x7 technical support, next business day onsite repairs, and accidental damage coverage

Cons

  • A bit on the expensive side for many students (honestly, if you can afford a MacBook you should be able to afford this)
  • Port selection is very limited, you have no HDMI or Type A ports

A new ThinkPad is here, and it looks better than ever before. Sleek, light, and without any of the drawbacks you’d have found on ThinkPads from just a couple years ago.

This is a X1 Carbon which means it is more of an ultrabook/ slim and light instead of a pure business machine. An excellent choice for travelers, students, creative professionals, content creators, etc.

The Intel 10th generation Comet Lake i7 processor in this ThinkPad X1 Carbon is more than capable of things like simulation work, video and photo editing, light gaming, etc. It is efficient enough to be a media consumption and web browsing machine, with more than enough battery life to last you a whole day.

Build quality is excellent, with a combination of metal and plastic that results in a very rigid yet lightweight chassis. There is no noticeable flex or creaking in the body, even as you weigh down on it with both hands.

The keyboard feels crisp and tactile, and you will be pleased with the display which is both IPS and anti-glare (with really thin bezels).

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation Comet Lake quad core i7 processor with 8 threads and a boost clock of 4.9GHz
  • 16GB dual-channel DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD with Windows 10 Pro installed
  • Backlit spill-resistant keyboard with Lenovo’s classic TrackPoint mouse joystick and ample key travel
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Built to be tough, yet lightweight
  • 14” IPS display with anti-glare finish and 400 nits of brightness
  • Physical privacy shutter on webcam
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
  • Rapid charge takes battery from zero to 80 percent in just over one hour
  • Easily gets 12+ hours of battery life
  • Has plenty of I/O ports despite being an ultralight 14” notebook
  • TPM 2.0 security chip

Cons

  • Memory is soldered onto mainboard so it can’t be upgraded
  • Power button is located in an awkward spot (next to the USB port)

Don’t need to run software like PSpice, MATLAB, 3DS Max, etc.? In that case, why not get a Chromebook for engineering college? It is light, easy to use, and is perfectly fine for basic stuff like web browsing/ eBooks/ movies/ word processing.

The Galaxy Chromebook isn’t just a good Chromebook, it is a good laptop in general.

The battery life, display, keyboard, and build quality are all excellent. This is a laptop you buy when you just want to write some notes in class, watch a movie in your spare time, and browse the web.

And unlike some of the cheaper Chromebooks it isn’t completely reliant on Cloud storage. There is 256GB of PCIe NVMe storage onboard, along with a decent i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.

This laptop feels zippy and is extremely versatile. You can easily edit photos or videos on an enthusiast/ semi-professional level thanks to the 4k AMOLED display with 100% Adobe RGB and 100% DCI-P3 gamut coverage. This is a touchscreen and the hinge rotates a full 360°, so the Galaxy Chromebook is a 2-in-1.

Pros

  • Intel Core i5-10210U quad core processor
  • 256GB of PCIe NVMe storage
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 4k AMOLED touchscreen display with 100% DCI-P3 gamut
  • 2-in-1
  • Pen included (4096 levels of pressure with tilt detection)
  • Google Assistant and Ambient EQ
  • Extremely thin and light
  • All-day battery life
  • Looks gorgeous and is a head turner
  • Onboard audio is actually not bad

Cons

  • Battery life is drained fast if you’re using the screen on high quality settings (4k resolution and high brightness require lots of juice)
  • Bottom area around the vent holes can get kind of hot if you’re doing something that stresses the CPU

A new version of the Gram, this one is equipped with Intel’s 10th generation Ice Lake quad core i7 processor (i7-1065G7). You get a very efficient CPU that can kick ass in productivity and light gaming while barely sipping power when you just need to browse the web or inspect documents.

With 4 cores and 8 threads, it packs more than enough multicore oomph for most folks including the vast majority of students.

Iris Plus graphics is not comparable to even a basic dedicated GPU like the MX150 or MX250. But it is more than enough for some 720p gaming or if you need to encode stuff with Intel Quick Sync.

And the LG Gram is actually meant to be the thinnest and lightest 17” laptop, which it probably is. So graphics performance isn’t something we’re too focused on. Portability is this laptop’s main advantage over its competitors, and it is indeed very portable for a 17 inch machine.

Pros

  • Just weighs 1.35 kilos even though it is a 17” laptop
  • Only 17.4mm thick
  • Has a massive 80Wh battery so it’s going to last 10+ hours if you’re just browsing the web or working in MS Word
  • Intel 10th generation Ice Lake quad core processor
  • Iris Plus integrated graphics
  • Full size backlit keyboard with two brightness levels and ample key travel for a satisfying typing experience (plus keys are large and have enough space in between to reduce typos)
  • Power button has a built-in fingerprint scanner for quick and secure logins
  • Passed 7 MIL-STD 810G durability tests (shock, vibration, pressure, dust, high temperature, low temperature, and salt fog)
  • Magnesium-aluminum alloy results in a light but strong chassis
  • Thunderbolt 3- data transfer, charging, and display output with just one port
  • 17” 2560 x 1600 IPS display (16:10 aspect ratio for enhanced productivity)

Cons

  • Trackpad isn’t centered with respect to the keyboard
  • Battery life will drain fast if you’re watching movies
  • Included charger isn’t going to charge the battery fast

We haven’t forgotten the students who want a nice budget laptop for engineering college. The Acer Aspire 5 is for you guys- who want a machine capable of tasks like coding, simulation, word processing, etc. but one that doesn’t cost a fortune.

And it is also a very well-built laptop for the price, which means you won’t accidentally put a dent in it by carrying in alongside other stuff in a bag.

Battery life is a tossup, sometimes it can be pretty good and at other times pretty meh. If you’re watching movies or playing games, don’t expect more than 4 to 5 hours. If you’re browsing the web or working on a word document, it can easily get 7 to 8 hours from a full charge.

We are bummed that Acer doesn’t allow charging over the Type C port, that would have been faster and more convenient than the standard charger.

Display quality is honestly pretty good for what you’re paying- an IPS FHD display in a price range where some competitors are still selling laptops with cheap TN panels (seriously guys, it is 2021).

And there’s even an NVIDIA MX350 dGPU for when you need that CUDA acceleration or additional oomph for gaming/ 3D rendering.

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation i5 processor (i5-1035G1 Ice Lake chip with 4 cores and 8 threads)
  • NVIDIA MX350 dedicated GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM, upgradeable
  • 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • 15.6” FHD IPS display
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type C and Type A ports, HDMI port with HDCP support, USB 2.0 port
  • Full-size backlit keyboard
  • Fingerprint scanner built into trackpad

Cons

  • Battery life could have been better
  • Speakers sound hollow and weak

This is perhaps the most affordable 2-in-1 laptop we’ve reviewed in a long time, and it’s from HP. Part of their Pavilion lineup, this is a laptop every student should consider if they want a device that is flexible in what it can do and how it can be used.

You could take notes in tablet mode during class with a stylus, watch movies with friends in tent mode, or type out a project in standard laptop mode.

Do you like to draw as a hobby during your spare time? Or perhaps you are into 3D animation and rendering? Either way, this laptop is perfect for any creative professional on a budget. It’s a 2-in-1 so you can even work on the train or plane.

Its dual-core i3 processor is the only downside when you consider the fact that Acer’s Aspire 5 costs slightly more and has a quad core i5. But then again, that is a regular laptop and not a 2-in-1. So weigh your preferences and buy accordingly.

Pros

  • 14” touchscreen display
  • Intel dual core Ice Lake 10nm processor with Iris Plus integrated graphics
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • 2-in-1
  • Good keyboard and trackpad
  • Lightweight with 8 to 10 hours of battery life

Cons

  • 1366 x 768 display resolution
  • Comes with Windows 10 Home in S-mode by default (can be manually changed back to regular mode)

It costs almost exactly the same as the HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1, but this is a regular laptop. It can’t fold and doesn’t have a touchscreen. So why should you buy this over the HP? Nice question, we recommend the Dell Inspiron 5402 for people who don’t really care about 2-in-1 functionality and just want the best performance per dollar.

It is powered by an Intel 11th generation Tiger Lake i3 processor which is significantly faster than the Ice Lake i3 processor in both IPC and clock speed. So you are getting a faster laptop compared to the Pavilion x360 if you go with the Inspiron 5402.

Better performance in everything from video playback and web browsing to word processing and coding. It has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, same as the HP Pavilion x360.

The display is full HD instead of 768p, resulting in a crisper typing and reading experience since there are less jaggies around characters on the screen. Movies, photos, games, etc. all look better on this screen.

But it isn’t a touchscreen, so you can’t take notes and draw up sketches as effortlessly as you would with the HP.

Pros

  • Intel 11th generation Tiger Lake dual core processor with Xe integrated graphics
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • Thin bezel full HD 14” non touch display
  • Backlit keyboard with ample key travel and large keycaps
  • Decent onboard audio for such an affordable laptop
  • Good trackpad
  • Well built
  • 10+ hours of battery life with web browsing on low brightness
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
  • USB 3.0, Type C, HDMI, and Micro SD reader
  • Ergonomic lift hinge for better cooling and a more comfortable typing position
  • Fingerprint scanner

Cons

  • Mediocre webcam
  • Power button is right next to delete

You need a combination of 3 things- portability, power, and efficiency. Portability is important, so you don’t accidentally turn walking between the classroom and dorm into a gym session.

And secondly, it should be fast enough to handle your software suite. PSpice, SolidWorks, MATLAB, Maya, etc. require decent hardware to run smoothly. And while the complexity of your college projects will be far lower than what you’ll work on in an actual professional environment, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for everything beforehand.

Get the best hardware you can reasonably afford. After all, you’ll be using it for at least 4 years.

Finally, you want a laptop that doesn’t gas out within 4 hours. Get something with a decent sized battery and an efficient processor. Intel’s Tiger Lake chips are extremely efficient, as are AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series laptop processors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does RAM speed matter?

A. Absolutely, but not as much as you would think. A 4287MHz stick of LPDDR4x isn’t  going to result in a 2x performance improvement over a 2133MHz DDR4 stick. You will see gains in programs that do take advantage of faster memory, and the integrated GPU will benefit greatly since it uses RAM to function.

Q. How much RAM is ideal for an engineering student?

A. We recommend a minimum of 8GB, ideally you want 16GB. If you’re doing a lot of work with simulations, AI, virtual machines, photos, etc. 32GB is what you need.

Q. Can I get by with a Chromebook?

A. If you all you want to do with a laptop is take notes in class, read eBooks, browse the web, watch movies, and listen to music- sure, why not. A Chromebook will also run any app on the Google Play Store.

Q. How much weight can I save by going with an ultrabook/ thin and light laptop over a gaming laptop for college?

A. A lot. Not just in terms of the actual laptop itself, but the overall package. Gaming laptops are a bad choice for college because you don’t want to be lugging around a 6+lb machine with you the entire day. And their chargers are also much heavier than regular laptop chargers.

Plus, unless you are a hardcore gamer you don’t need all that power. Just get a thin & light, and utilize the money you save to purchase a PlayStation or Xbox. Or maybe put it towards a desktop gaming PC that will stay in your residence, while you carry the laptop to class.

Q. Is a good display important for engineering students?

A. The color accuracy and brightness aren’t super important as long as the display isn’t completely terrible. Most modern laptops released this year or last year tend to have decent displays and we’re seeing IPS panels even in the sub-500$ market segment.

So screen size and resolution are what you want for engineering, since a larger display means you can fit more stuff- more diagrams, more circuits, more text, more lines of code, etc.

 And you improve readability with larger screens. Larger screens also need higher resolutions, so everything doesn’t look jaggy. The ideal combination is 15.6” and FHD, although 1440p is even better if you can afford it. 4K is a luxury, not necessary but nice to have. If you’re doing a lot of work with photos and videos (or perhaps you’re a movie buff), a nice OLED/ IPS screen is a must have with good DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB gamut coverage.

Conclusion

We have given you all the information you need to choose the perfect laptop for engineering college. Our top choice is the Dell XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 due to its excellent combination of portability, versatility, and performance.

The new Intel Tiger Lake chips are fast and efficient, plus they pack Xe graphics which is on par with low end dedicated GPUs like the MX250. The display on these new XPS laptops is truly phenomenal, especially the 500 nit UHD+ one with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

If you’re not comfortable with spending that amount of money on a student laptop, it’s perfectly reasonable. That’s why we included other choices that are more affordable, such as the HP Pavilion x360 and Dell Inspiron 5402.

Both of these are excellent choices for students on a budget, and they will pretty much get you through 4 years of college without any major issues.

About the author

Saurav Rath

Saurav has been writing about technology for the past 4 years, but has been a fan of all things computer related since he was 7 years old. He is a ghostwriter for multiple sites, and covers everything from PC hardware to chainsaws and mobile game development (yep, the guy has a lot of range). Learn more

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